A traveler’s field guide to the wild new world of lodging
Fall asleep swaying in the breeze in a hand-hewn wooden orb suspended in the coastal rain forest of Vancouver Island. Kick back in a sunny, art-filled SoHo flat stocked with fluffy hotel towels, Kiehl’s bath products, and an iPhone loaded with your host’s tips on the neighborhood’s finest. Check out a pair of your hotel’s Google Glass eyewear for a tech-enhanced spin around San Francisco.
Welcome to the latest wave of lodging standouts, where the most coveted amenity is connection—to locals, nature, technology, culture, and even other travelers.
“For millennials, the thought of staying in a hotel that’s exactly like a hotel in another city is a negative, unlike in other generations when it was a selling point,” says Bjorn Hanson, a hospitality professor at New York University. And no matter their age, Hanson says, travelers now look to lodging as an extension of the destination, often favoring novelty and cultural relevance over minibars and late checkout. The result is a staggering array of new ways to sleep away from home. In the tradition of National Geographic field guides, here we offer tips and strategies for navigating the evolving lodging landscape:
2. Glamping: Live With Nature, in Comfort
With roots in nomadic yurts and gypsy caravans, “glamping” is basically camping without the gear, hassle, and aching back from sleeping on the ground. In recent years, the term has become a popular catchall covering everything from tricked-out tree houses to canvas tent camps.
WHERE TO FIND Grown-ups who pine for their summer camp days gravitate to Orenda ($190 per person), a collection of safari-like tents in the Adirondacks backcountry where guests hike, canoe, and ride horses by day, and sip cocktails around a fire by night. Dinner is served family style and cooked over an open-flame, but forget franks and beans—we’re talking herb-crusted chicken and beet salad with pine nuts.
Somewhere between a tree house and a wooden boat, Free Spirit Spheres (from $155) are suspended in Vancouver Island’s coastal rain forest with little to distract their inhabitants besides the neighboring cedars, spruce, and balsam fir trees. The effect verges on the spiritual, says founder and builder Tom Chudleigh: “We’ve become disconnected. A sphere speaks to unity with each other and the trees.” For an experience rooted in luxury—with a price tag above the clouds—there’s Montana’s new Cliffside camp at Resort at Paws Up, overlooking the Blackfoot River, made famous in the film A River Runs Through It. Guests enjoy heated bathroom floors, meals, and a butler. The grand total to sleep in a tent? At least $1,500. Guided fly-fishing is extra.
BEST FOR Nature enthusiasts without the gear, time, or patience necessary to make camp.
CAVEAT Indoor plumbing isn’t always de rigueur. Verify before booking if outhouses don’t appeal.
TIP The glamping season is limited, so book early—Orenda’s tents fill up in February.